Investors have gained some respite from eurozone debt fears after stronger than expected Chinese manufacturing figures lifted sentiment.
The report, which showed that the country’s resource-hungry boom picked up pace in November, ensured a strong session for miners and meant London’s FTSE 100 Index recovered from recent losses to stand 85.2 points higher at 5613.6 at lunch on Wednesday.
The top flight has faltered alongside other markets in recent sessions and closed on Tuesday at its lowest level in two months. The euro has also taken a battering, sinking below 1.30 dollars to its lowest level in 11 weeks, but the single currency returned above the benchmark in trading on Wednesday.
Yusuf Heusen, a trader at IG Index, said Europe was now holding its breath to see if Portugal will require a similar bailout package to the one handed over to Ireland last week.
China’s strong growth figures proved good timing for Prudential bosses as they met investors in London to outline their plans for Asia, including a target to double the value of last year’s operating profits by 2013. Prudential shares jumped on the forecast, up 6% or 32.5p to 600.5p, as chief executive Tidjane Thiam said the company aspired to be “one of the winners in the post-financial crisis world”.
Other risers included accountancy software firm Sage after it reported a bigger than expected 14% rise in annual profits and a return to sales growth over the second half of the year. The revenues momentum, fuelled by greater confidence among small and medium sized enterprise customers, meant shares rose 5% or 14p to 271.3p.
London’s relief rally also included gains for Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group as the part-nationalised pair improved 1.9p to 39.5p and 2.8p to 63.2p respectively.
The increased appetite for riskier assets meant those stocks that have sheltered investors in recent weeks fell back, with Severn Trent down 42p to 1404p, National Grid off 15p to 553p and United Utilities 5.5p lower at 591p.
In other results, Thomas Cook dropped 3%, off 5.7p to 180.6p, in the wake of a 6% fall in full-year profits as growth in central Europe and Germany only partly offset a weaker performance in the company’s UK business.
The tour operator plans to generate up to £50 million of savings by reducing the number of managerial and support staff in the UK, as well as renegotiating supplier costs and upgrading IT.